How Do I Know If Your Lab Has Dwarfism

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Key Takeaways

  • The easiest way to tell if your lab has dwarfism is by seeing if they have shorter legs, bowed or bent knees, turned-out feet, a low back, or a large head.
  • SD1 and SD2 are the two most common types of dwarfism in labs, while Chondrodysplasia, chondrodystrophy, and pituitary dwarfism are more common in other breeds.
  • Dwarfism in dogs is associated with many different health problems including IVDD, hip and elbow dysplasia, eye problems, heart disease, and other abnormalities and symptoms.
  • Affected dogs should be taken to the vet for an official diagnosis and to discuss possible treatment.

Labradors are some of the friendliest and most well-loved dog breeds out there but if you want to get a new pet lab, how can you know if it has dwarfism?

So how can you tell if your lab has dwarfism? There are a few obvious visible signs that a labrador will exhibit if it has dwarfism, including having short legs, bowed or bent knees, turned-out feet, a low-slung back, and a disproportionately large head. These are all signs of canine dwarfism.

So called miniature dog breeds have become more and more popular over the years and being that labrador retrievers are such a popular breed, there is a lot of demand out there for a smaller lab. However, miniature labs simply don’t exist so if you are really stuck on the idea of a mini-lab, a dwarf lab is probably your best option. So, how can you know if a lab has dwarfism, what types of dwarfism are there, and are there any additional health risks that come along with having canine dwarfism?

In this article

How Do I Know If My Lab Has Dwarfism?

There are a few different visible signs that dogs with dwarfism display, making it pretty easy for the average dog owner to tell if their lab has dwarfism.

The first thing to look at is the legs. If your lab has shorter legs and bowed or bent knees, this is a pretty good indication that your lab has dwarfism. Affected dogs also often have turned out feet, or feet that point out instead of forward when walking and standing.

Having a disproportionately large head and a low-slung back are also two big signs that your lab has dwarfism, however, having one or more of these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean that your dog has dwarfism.

Even though there are obvious visible signs, diagnosing dwarfism is still quite complicated and should be left to professionals. If you suspect that your lab has dwarfism, you should take your dog to a vet’s office for a proper diagnosis.

Different Types Of Dwarfism In Labrador Retrievers

There are multiple different types of canine dwarfism, which affect both pure bread and mixed labradors. Each of these diseases is caused by a specific genetic mutation with mutations in the SD1 and SD2 genes being the most likely causes of dwarfism in labradors.

Chondrodysplasia And Chondrodystrophy

Chondrodysplasia and chondrodystrophy are some of the most common and well-known forms of dwarfism that appear in dogs. Caused by a mutation in the FGF4 gene, these disorders cause the dog to have unusually short legs. In fact, this is the gene responsible for the famously short stature of breeds like corgis and basset hounds.

While this type of dwarfism is incredibly rare in purebreds, lab lines that have been crossed with a breed that has either of these disorders could pass the trait on to their puppies.

Oculoskeletal Dysplasia

Oculoskeletal Dysplasia is a genetic disorder caused by a mutation in the SD1 gene and is carried by both purebred and mixed labradors. This disorder causes labs to have short legs as well as causing serious eye problems that can cause bulging eyes and other eyesight issues.

The SD1 gene is recessive, meaning that dogs that don’t have any sort of dwarfism can still silently carry and pass on the gene to their puppies. The gene will only show itself if both parents are carriers and still, only one-quarter of the puppies will have oculoskeletal dysplasia, with an additional half being silent carriers.

Skeletal Dysplasia 2

The most common form of dwarfism in labradors is Skeletal Dysplasia 2, which is a hereditary condition caused by the SD2 gene. Just like SD1, SD2 is also a recessive trait meaning that it can also be passed down silently from parent to puppy.

However, the abnormalities that SD2 causes can vary widely between dogs. For instance, while SD2 may be very visible in some dogs,  a puppy from a larger line of labradors that has SD2 may still be taller than another labrador from a smaller line of labs.

Radius Curvus Deformity

Radius Curvus Deformity is a disease that is still a bit of a mystery to modern veterinary medicine. We still don’t know exactly what gene causes it but we do know that this disease can cause defects in the cartilage and bones in each leg which can cause it to bend and deform, preventing further growth.

Pituitary Dwarfism

In very rare cases, labradors can also have pituitary dwarfism which affects the pituitary gland, preventing it from producing a sufficient amount of growth hormone. As you might have guessed, growth hormone has a huge effect on how well a dog grows and if there isn’t enough growth hormone produced, then the dog will experience delayed growth.

Unlike, the aforementioned diseases which normally cause disproportionate dwarfism that only affects the legs,  pituitary dwarfism causes proportionate dwarfism, meaning that all body parts are equally small.

Dogs with pituitary dwarfism need to be on some sort of treatment plan if you want them to comfortably make it to adulthood. Hormone therapy with growth hormone or other related hormones that promote the production of growth hormone can go a long way to ensure that a dog with pituitary dwarfism reaches a healthy size in adulthood.

Medroxyprogesterone acetate is a medicine for therapeutic use that has shown a lot of promise in the treatment of pituitary dwarfism as well.

Though much more common in other dogs like German shepherds and Karelian bear dogs, it is still possible for this mutation to be passed to a labrador puppy. If you have a labrador puppy that has pituitary dwarfism, you should go to a vet immediately to discuss treatment options to ensure that your dog’s pituitary gland is producing enough growth hormone.

Health Problems Common In Dwarf Labs

Dogs with dwarfism can often live the long, happy lives that they deserve without too many problems, however, there are various health problems associated with that experience dwarfism.

For instance dogs with Chondrodysplasia and chondrodystrophy are much more likely to have intervertebral disc disease, or IVDD, which can be incredibly painful for your dog and cause all sorts of spinal problems.

Dogs with dwarfism also tend to have other health conditions like hip and elbow dysplasia which can affect the front legs as well as the back. Eye problems like bulging eyes and cataracts can also be common.

Other health conditions like heart disease and issues producing thyroid hormones may also affect dogs with dwarfism.

Another common developmental abnormality that may also affect a dog’s quality of life is having  crooked teeth, and skin disorders and hair loss can also occur.

However, no matter what the symptoms or deficiency, with proper treatment and care most dogs with a dwarfism diagnosis can live to the age of 12 to 13 years old which is a full and happy life for any other dog.